The Brexit debate appears to have “exacerbated cross-community divisions” in Northern Ireland, a House of Lords report has said.
The Lords EU Committee has been examining the impact of Brexit on the UK’s devolved institutions.
It said Northern Ireland will be “profoundly affected” because of its distinctive circumstances.
Statistical analysis suggests about 65% of unionists backed Brexit while almost 90% of nationalists voted remain.
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The committee said it appeared that the disagreements over Brexit had contributed to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive.
Sinn Féin favours a “special status” for Northern Ireland that would keep it in the EU, a policy rejected by unionists.
The committee acknowledged that the use of the phrase “special status” in respect of Brexit is politically contentious for unionists who do not want Northern Ireland’s place in the UK to be undermined.
However, it added that “the specific circumstances in Northern Ireland” – geographical, historical, and political – “give rise to unique issues that will need to be addressed during the Brexit negotiations”.
It called on the UK government to identity and outline “flexible and imaginative solutions” to the issue of the Irish border as a matter of priority.
It also said the government needed to “raise its game” in consulting the devolved governments to give them real influence in the Brexit negotiations.
The report also referred to “acute concern” that the devolved jurisdictions will lose out if needs-based EU funding is replaced by UK subsidies granted in accordance with the population-based Barnett Formula.
A previous report from the committee recommended that Northern Ireland should have continued access to EU funding for cross-Irish-border projects.